Constructive disruption, or heedless destruction?

Council members Laura Moss, Harry Howle and Lange Sykes have indicated a desire to sell off “surplus properties.”
Is the Vero Beach Marina soon to be for sale? Will voters approve?


Marine property lies to the north and south of the Vero Beach Yacht Club. Club representative say their organization is growing and is finding it increasingly difficult to meet parking needs. Any change in land use, they say, will impact the Club.

Acting on behalf of the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce, Mark Mucher submitted a proclamation request to the Clerk’s Office on March 27, nearly four weeks beyond the deadline for the April 2 City Council meeting. To ensure the proclamation was place on the April 2 Council agenda, Mayor Laura Moss overrode the City Clerk’s Office.

City Code requires that requests for proclamations be submitted “at least four (4) weeks prior to the Council meeting date requested for presentation or issuance.”

Less than two weeks before intervening on Mucher’s behalf, Moss and he were seen working the crowd at an event held in Riverside Park. “Let me introduce you to the mayor of Vero Beach,” Mucher was heard saying, as he proudly introduced Moss to those who presumably had never seen Indian-River-Shores-funded campaign post cards featuring Moss’ photograph.Moss’ willingness to set aside published guidelines and requirements for requesting proclamations suggests the mayor sees her office, not as a sacred trust, but as a privilege bestowed for the benefit of herself, her friends, and her Indian River Shores benefactors. (In the 2016 municipal election, fully 70% of Moss’ campaign contributions came from Shores residents.)

This is not the first time Moss has disregarded City Code in overreached her legal authority. Several months ago, without consulting her fellow Council members, Moss sought to control the agenda of a Finance Commission meeting. Unsuccessful in muzzling the citizen advisory board, Moss then attempted to unilaterally cancel the Commission’s meeting. The dust-up put the City Attorney in the awkward position of having to clarifying the limits of the mayor’s authority.

Under Vero Beach’s “weak-mayor” form of government, the city manager, not the mayor, is the City’s chief executive officer. Beyond the responsibilities of any other Council member, the mayor’s only additional duties are to preside over Council meetings, sign legal documents on behalf of the City, and represent the City at ceremonial events.

In supporting Donald Trump’s successful rise to the Presidency, may voters may have concluded that his disregard for norms, traditions and bureaucracy are exactly what is needed to end partisan gridlock that has all but crippled Washington.

By electing Laura Moss to the Vero Beach City Council, voters were clearly reaffirming their desire to see the City conclude the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. However, it is a stretch to conclude that Moss’ election also signals widespread support for her limited-government agenda, an agenda which was never mentioned during the campaign?

Support for the power sale, for example, is no indication that the people of Vero Beach want a mayor who assumes more power and authority than is conferred by the City Charter? Let us be clear, as mayor, Moss is one of five Council members. She has no legal authority to set aside City Code for her benefit, or for the benefit of her friends and supporters. And it is certainly not her place to direct Staff, cancel citizen advisory meetings, or control the agenda of those commissions and boards.

Recently, Moss has been pressuring the Finance Commission to consider the viability of the City continuing to own and operate a marina. Documents released by the City Clerk’s Office in response to public records requests reveal that Moss has been in conversation with representative of the Vero Beach Yacht Club.

A meeting to include Moss, City Manager Jim O’Connor, as well as several representative of the Yacht Club, is scheduled for April 19. O’Connor said he was told the subject of the meeting will be the Club’s parking needs. Yacht Club general manager Shawn Witmer said the Club is interested to know what plans the City may have for the marina property.

According to Witmer, the Yacht Club is growing in membership, and has been challenged to meet parking needs. Any change in use to the adjoining property, he said, would impact the Yacht Club.

Vero Beach Marina facilities lie north and south of the Yacht Club. The area to the north of the Yacht Club, including the docks and parking lots, is protected by the City Charter. As a result, that land and those facilities cannot be sold or leased for commercial use without voter approval. The dry dock storage and kayak racks to the south, and the building housing an insurance office to the east are encumbered by grants and a loan from the Florida Inland Navigation District. Short of holding a referendum, how Moss plans to get the City out of the marina business is not clear.

Equally troubling is the fact that Moss’ actions raise serious questions about her commitment to fairness, to the rule of law, and to chain of command within City government.


  1. Right on Mark! As a former mayor, I certainly was aware of the boundaries. This focus/power grab/whatever is something I’ve never witnessed on the City of Vero Beach Council before. It is unbecoming, and I certainly hope it is not catching! We’ve always had civil meetings – no need for going beyond what the code allows. Caroline Ginn

  2. Thank you, Mark, and thank you, Caroline Ginn. Without rules, regulations, and everything else that keeps a city civil, we’d be Dodge City-East–wild and woolly.

  3. Lets hope the Moss,Howle and Sykes plan to sell the marina is sunk ,and sunk very quickly. Their plan to sell the marina is another attempt at a “quick fix” to their budgetary problems which they have created. Moss should speed dial the mayor of Indian River Shores for advise in order to keep their terrible plans afloat.

  4. The proposed Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan will determine the future of the city marina. The facts are there for you in black and white.

    POLICY 6.2, p-17 mandates that our city marina be REZONED as quote, “A MIXED USE area by REQUIRING ground floor retail, commercial, restaurants, recreational and entertainment uses on ALL new construction.”

    POLICY 6.2, p. 2-19 requires that bonus incentives be given to DEVELOPERS who limit first floor uses to retail and limit residential uses to the second floor under MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT.

    The MIXED USE POLICIES in the Comp Plan were written for the benefit of DEVELOPERS who increase their product value by achieving MAXIMUM DENSITY inside a smaller footprint.

    MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT is the designation for medium to LARGE scale urban development and intensities, COMBINING residential, commercial, retail, restaurants, entertainment, institutional, cultural and industrial development on the ground floor with compact, compressed and clustered HIGH DENSITY POPULATION DEVELOPMENT above existing structures.

    Our city attorney confirmed on public record that the 568 POLICIES in the new Comp Plan ARE LAWS once the plan is adopted. These laws are quasi-judicial in nature. Deviation from any ONE of these laws can become a prosecutable offense.

    “My focus was on MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT. What it really amounts to is MODIFYING LOCAL CODES to MOVE POLICY FORWARD and changing land uses to MANDATE MIXED USE ZONING POLICIES with INCREASES IN POPULATION DENSITY and INTENSITY for the benefit of DEVELOPERS.” In his own words, Dana Little summarizes his work as an urban planner for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council who was hired to redevelop our city.

    Sellout of the marina to developers begins the implementation of the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICIES as mandated in Part 6.2. For those who support the Comp Plan, congratulations. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Mix, stir, pour and watch the process repeated throughout the City.

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